Day 15 | Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon

We heard the alarm groggily at 7.00am and ignored it. At 7.30am we got up (well Angus and Rosie did). Hearty breakfast at the gas station while we filled up with fuel – full tank $70 not bad for the big tank we have. Angus also got an uber-coffee with the sobriquet “supercharged” which was not an understatement. He wasn’t finished until about noon. Best $1.59 ever. It made up for the servo-guy taking the piss out of our accents.

We didn’t really know exactly where we were going but with the assistance of the internet and our GPS we figured it out - how hard could it be?

First stop – Hoover Dam. Amazing. They have just completed a new bridge that you drive over rather than via the Hoover Dam as far as the highway is concerned. But you can still drive over the dam. The new bridge is four lanes with shoulders and pedestrian walkway.  The Dam crossing is a weight controlled two-lane with side-walks. On one side is Nevada and the other Arizona.

We parked and walked around and were blown away with its scale HUGE. It is much higher than it appears on TV. We of course did drive over it before we left – we just had to. The Hoover Dam is symbolic in the US about all sorts of things – the beginnings of trade unions, the boldness of the project, the cooperation of the States (the Colorado goes through seven states and the project has benefits for all of them), the “New Deal”, etc, etc. They sell US flags that have been flown over the dam, cable from the powerhouse and rocks. It is sort of industrial-patriotic-spiritual all at once. All around the site there are art-deco symbols for the date and monuments to all sorts of things like the Da Vinci code as a civil engineering project. The big bronze angels were the biggest castings of the time, concrete the biggest pours at the time, etc.

Next stop Grand Canyon. It was about a three hour trip and we were getting concerned when we appeared to be in the middle of nowhere! But then just as we thought we were about to take part in a Stephen King novel we saw the sign ‘Sky Walk 49 miles’, phew. This is a very strange place, eerie like National Park in NZ’s north island. There is this place, Dolan Springs, which was all dust, variously maintained mobile homes and closed seasonal shops with hand-written signs (“got Mex food? We have”, “land for sale”) and the speed limit is dropped to 25 mph (40km) so it just feels like a deliverance trap. It seemed deserted but you could feel the eyes. They probably wonder why so many people pass through to see their Canyon.

Part of the drive is a gravel road at 25mph very slow and very, very dusty. You arrive at the Grand Canyon West Airport where you have to park, you then buy tickets to get to the canyon viewing places and Skywalk. Shuttle buses take you around you can’t drive in the reserve. We presume that this is to save wear on the road (which was sealed) and control what comes into the reserve. The tour is basically run by the Huapalai Indian tribe so I do hope they are getting a big cut to make up for everything else.

We bought the Gold package which gave us the Sky Walk, lunch and unlimited hop on hop off buses. It also gave us the opportunity to visit the Huapalai Ranch but we thought we might not have time for that.We lined up and for the Skywalk and covered our shoes with booties, and waited our turn for the Skywalk. You cannot take anything on like cameras, phones, backpacks etc. and have to store these items in lockers. You then pass through metal detectors and security to ensure you don’t have anything you shouldn’t. This lady was really good compared to the Disney and Six Flags heavies. No one got through with anything they shouldn’t (like a glass cutter).

Each group gets a tour guide/photographer and these are the only photos you can have. The glass is six layers of laminated glass from Germany, they are trialing some new panels (weren’t we lucky they worked). Some people were totally freaked out by the experience being so high on a glass floor. It is very, very cool and you can see for miles. The first drop was 2,000 feet (600 metres) which cascaded down another 1,000 feet (300 metres). The first step off when you look down is pretty daunting but once you get over your apprehension it is a very unique and amazing experience. McKay enjoyed jumping up and down making it shake and scaring the Japanese tourists, very funny. The U-shaped walkway is cantilevered out and bounces nicely. There was one Mexican guy who was so scared he couldn’t let go of the handrail and almost crawled around the whole thing.

We checked out the gift shop, picked up our photos. Then off to see the Eagle Point viewing area and took heaps of photos and freaked out about getting too close to the edge. There are no guard rails, or fences and you could just go straight off the edge and fall to your death. Stepping around you look down chasms tens of metres deep and you realise you are on a pile of rocks balanced on the edge! The views are straight out of a Roadrunner cartoon but just too beautiful to properly capture. Well worth the drive through Dolan Springs.

Back on the bus to the next stop where we had our lunch (the food wasn’t that great). Oh well it was made up for by the amazing surroundings. O’Regan and Rosie climbed up to the top of one of the peaks and it had even more amazing views, wow. There were tons of people around but you still had lots of places to be alone. Sometimes when you were wandering about the view just blows you away again, there is just so much of it. As the sun moved it changed the shadows and colours and it was new again.We noticed that there was an unattended bag in the outdoor picnic area, full of photos, just like what we had got. McKay went and looked at the photos and searched for the owners. He was just about to give up when he bumped into them as they were just about to leave. They were very thankful as they hadn’t yet noticed that they had forgotten them (the photo’s weren’t cheap).

We didn’t make it to the Ranch, which did offer tomahawk throwing, so we’ll be back another time for that. We left as the sun was going down and felt very content with a fantastic day.

Highlights of the day:

O’Regan – climbing up the high peak in the Grand Canyon. 
McKay – jumping on the Skywalk and reuniting some lost photos to some tourists. 
Angus – Hoover Dam, the closer you look, the more there is (low-light - Dolan Springs, I found the one place I’ll not retire to) 
Rosie – the Skywalk, totally awesome and the Hoover dam.

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